Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Social media and Pedagogy

There is a very interesting interview with Associate Professor S. Craig Watkins (found HERE) on the impact of social media on teaching and learning, pedagogy and future employment. In a recent presentation at my university with over 1000 students present, nearly ALL admitted to having Facebook accounts, and with mobile phone ownership in Hong Kong approaching 170% you can guarantee that no students are without a mobile phone (and therefore, SMS).

The question I would like to ask is: as university faculty, what should our reaction be to this information? There is evidence that students don't want faculty staff in their personal space (see HERE) but equally there is evidence that Facebook and the mobile world is where the students are. One anecdote from the University of Hong Kong Library in which late-book reminders were sent via SMS. The income from fines decreased by 90%!. Communication via SMS was clearly more effective than the previous approach, email. In another recent study (see HERE) librarians who set up a Library Facebook site observed that while the use of email and Facebook were almost equal for inquiries, the Facebook site inquiries were dominated by undergraduate students.

Now, social media and mobiles are converging - fast. The plethora of applications that allow social technologies and mobiles to connect grows daily. Applications that support microblogging (Echelon, Twitteriffic), blogging (Blogger), social networking (Facebook, Fring, Skype, iPadio), content upload/download etc etc. are growing. The trickle-down of applications that were traditionally the domain of desktops, then notebooks and now mobile computing devices has turned into a flood.

Observations. Clearly social networking and mobile devices (particularly SMS) are going to continue to dominate the lives of our students, particularly the younger students arriving at our institutions. How these vehicles for communication and (potentially) interaction can be used effectively for learning (rather than merely low level reminders or a basic information medium) still remains issues of affordability, pedagogy, willingness (staff and students), available applications, support and most especially, learning design. What are the affordances of mobile devices that can be used to address higher order thinking skills (HOTS). The research evidence is growing - mobiles + social networking for field studies and language learning are just two that have been described recently.

More to come.

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